The Danny Williams surgery shouldn’t be controversial

Originally published in MedPage Today

by Michael Smith

The Danny Williams surgery shouldnt be controversial OK, don’t take this the wrong way, but ….

Chill. Relax. Give the other guy the benefit of the doubt. Don’t jump to conclusions. And most of all, think before you speak, blog, natter, comment, or otherwise pontificate on issues of the day.

And when I say ‘think,’ I don’t mean trying to find the most effective schoolyard taunt or debater’s trick. I mean think about the facts. And again — not with the usual intent to distort that is all so prevalent these days.

I mean, death panels. Sheeesh! Come on.

This whole rant comes in the wake of the recent kafuffle up here in the frozen north (although, just by the way, not nearly so frozen as DC). You’ll recall that a prominent politician up here had heart trouble and sought treatment in the (gasp!) U.S.

Now in a rational world, that would have been worth two paragraphs in the local papers and nothing at all on the world stage.

But no. North of the border, pundits of all stripes weighed in to suggest that if Danny Williams couldn’t get the care he needed in his native Newfoundland, he should have gone to Quebec or Ontario. Anywhere but the U.S. South of the border pundits of — well, most of one stripe — weighed in to declare that this showed the incredible weakness of the Canadian healthcare system.

But the facts don’t support either position.

First of all, he was going to have to travel anyway. Newfoundland has a population — as MedPage Today’s Mike Himowitz kindly pointed out — less than that of Wyoming. I don’t know this for certain, but I bet there are some heart procedures that aren’t available in Wyoming. Can you imagine a fuss if the governor of Wyoming went outside the state for surgery? I thought not.

So Danny Williams was going to get treatment outside his province. Given that, why not the States? The weather is nicer in many places (unless of course, he went to Washington but he’s smarter than that) and he could maybe catch a few rays while convalescing.

That, of course, never entered anybody’s mind, at least not in the blogosphere.

Now let’s imagine the governor of Wyoming traveling for surgery. He might even go north of the border — some Americans do — although I don’t know why he would in winter. Would that say anything at all about the American healthcare system? I thought not.

My point — and I do have one, somewhere — is that I’m tired of people setting up straw men and knocking them down for the sake of making debater’s points. By all means, let’s have a vigorous discussion of issues. But let’s make sure they ARE issues first.

Michael Smith is the North American Correspondent at MedPage Today and blogs at In Other Words, the MedPage Today staff blog.

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